Spike (formerly and commonly Spike TV) was a Viacom-owned network that was dedicated to every single male interest possible, as you might've been able to tell by its edgy name. It was basically the Rated M for Manly Network, though some may say they lampshaded this often enough to venture into Testosterone Poisoning and invariably into Unfortunate Implications.
Originally, it was known as TNN or The Nashville Network, a country music channel launched two days after rival CMT. TNN was originally owned by Gaylord Entertainment, alongside Group W (the broadcasting arm of Westinghouse Electric Company). Westinghouse, after becoming CBS Corporation, purchased all of TNN (and CMT, which Gaylord bought in 1991) in 1997. While it focused mainly on music videos, TNN included original programming such as the game show Top Card, NASCAR races, and outdoor, lifestyle and talk shows targeted to a country audience.
Viacom bought CBS in 2000, and folded TNN and CMT into MTV Networks. In order to avoid redundancy, TNN was retooled into The National Network, or The New TNN, and tried to go beyond its Southern demographic. The New TNN would become Viacom's first attempt at a general entertainment network since selling their stake in USA Network; indeed, they seemed hellbent to clone USA as much as possiblenote , to the point they acquired the rights to WWE Raw from USA; Raw became TNN's most successful program, though the move basically killed ECW. While that still sounds like a part of the original demographic, The National Network also featured reruns of shows such as Baywatch, Diff'rent Strokes, MADtv, Miami Vice, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Three's Company. The reaction to the new direction of the network wasn't positive; it began losing viewers of the "old" TNN, while, in hopes of attracting more viewers of the pro-wrestling shows, it began featuring more and more male-targeted programs.
In 2003, the network title was completely changed to Spike TV, with a focus on Rated M for Manly content; they would drop "TV" from their name three years later. WWE Raw stuck around for a while, but went back to its original home on the USA Network due to problems between WWE and Viacom. In its place, Spike would fill the Professional Wrestling void with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (now known as Impact Wrestling). Reruns of shows like CSI and Star Trek would also become a staple of the network at this time.
In 2005, Spike would begin turning heads when the network debuted The Ultimate Fighter. The success of the first season not only brought major coverage to the sport of Mixed Martial Arts, but led to a major partnership between Spike and the Ultimate Fighting Championship, with the network also airing fight compilations (UFC Unleashed) and live Fight Night events. Meanwhile, Spike would also become the first American cable network to air all six Star Wars movies after Viacom outbid NBCUniversal and Turner Broadcasting for exclusive broadcast rights. Spike proceeded to milk the films for all their worth in the years to follow, running marathons during anniversary celebrations or holiday weekends.
Beginning in 2011, Spike would begin shifting focus away from male-only programming in favor of unscripted series aimed at a more general audience. Bar Rescue and Ink Master would become the network's most successful series during this time. Spike would also expand their combat sport coverage to include promotions like Bellator MMA (which Viacom purchased in 2011 after the UFC signed a new deal with Fox Sports), Glory Kickboxing, and Al Haymon's Premier Boxing Champions.
Between 2013 and 2014, Spike would ditch Impact Wrestling (thanks to an executive fallout between TNA and Viacom), cancel the annual Video Game Awards, and lose the rights to some of their acquired programming, including the Star Wars films (which, ironically, ended up with Turner). In March of 2015, Spike announced it would relaunch as a general entertainment network once again, with programming that's meant to be more inclusive to women. A U.K version, also owned by Viacom, was launched later that spring. Among other things, it is the first conventional TV channel in Britain to show Breaking Bad, which had previously only been available via Netflix or on disc.
On January 18, 2018, Spike relaunched as Paramount Network, as part of a larger revamp of Viacom's cable networks to focus on six "flagship brands": including Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., BET, and the Paramount film studio from which the network will now take its name from. International versions of Spike are still active, but the brand would return to its domestic home via Viacom's purchase of Pluto TV in 2019 and the launch of two branded streaming channels on the service.
Notable original programming on Spike:
- 1000 Ways to Die
- Afro Samurai, Co-production with GONZO as the network's first and only anime which aired in America first before it was subbed into Japanese.
- Auction Hunters
- Bar Rescue
- Bellator MMA programming; including Fight Master and live event cards.
- Blade: The Series
- Blue Mountain State
- Catch a Contractor
- COPS, from 2013-present
- Criss Angel BeLIEve
- Deadliest Warrior
- E3 coverage with GameTrailers.com, from 2012-2014. They continued to air Microsoft's E3 briefings along with Spike's own E3 All Access special from 2015-2016.
- Gary the Rat
- Guys' Choice — an annual award show which exists to give the network's demographic a choice on what they like the best.
- Impact Wrestling, The flagship show of Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (now also named Impact Wrestling); aired from 2005-2014.
- Ink Master
- The Joe Schmo Show, which had two seasons in the early 2000s, and then a nearly nine year gap before another season.
- Jail, both in reruns, since 2010, and new episodes, from 2015-2017. It was re-titled as Jail: Las Vegas for its fourth season, and Jail: Big Texas for its fifth.
- The Kill Point
- Lip Sync Battle, hosted by LL Cool J and originated as a recurring segment from The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
- Most Extreme Elimination Challenge, a Gag Dub of an 80s Japanese game show Takeshi's Castle.
- Oblivious (or Obliviou$), a hidden-camera game show that ran for two seasons. The gag was that the host, Regan Burns, would be pretending to be working the whole time in a profession such as a florist as a baker, but while interacting with a customer would ask them trivia questions in a way that they wouldn't realize they were on a game show. In each episode, one of the marks then had the chance to turn things around by then doing the same thing with another unwitting contestant.
- Ren & Stimpy "Adult Party Cartoon"
- Scream Awards — An award show dedicated to sci-fi, fantasy, and horror movies & television shows, as well as comic books. Held from 2005-2011.
- The Shannara Chronicles — Season 2; Originally aired on MTV
- Spike Video Game Awards — An award show dedicated to video gaming. Held from 2003-2013 (with the last show being an event called VGX). It has a Spiritual Successor in The Game Awards, which began the following year by producer Geoff Keighley.
- Tattoo Nightmares
- UFC content between 2005 and 2011:.
- The Ultimate Fighter — an elimination style reality-series with fighters competing to get signed by the UFC; this was consistently one of the top-rated shows on the network during its run on Spike.
- UFC Unleashed, an anthology series that airs classic or previously unaired UFC fights.
- UFC Fight Night live events
- World's Most Amazing Videos
- WWE Raw — carried over from TNN; aired until September 2005.